Iran update: number 128

Summary

  • China agrees to new P5+1 talks after previous delays; US levies more sanctions
  • Underground Iranian nuclear installations may be immune to Israeli strikes
  • Iran criticizes Western advocates for its failed Security Council bid
  • Iran nixes local office of the American-Iranian Council
  • Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami refuses to comment on possible future bid for presidency
  • American Presidential candidates on Iran

 

Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, has expressed his frustration at the work of the P5+1 group, stating that the suspension of uranium enrichment as a precondition for commencing negotiations with the six major powers is unacceptable and "illegal", and that a solution based on "realities" should instead be pursued. This statement comes in spite of a declaration made by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it is impossible to determine at this time whether there were undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.

China withdrew its objections to further talks within the P5+1 group, which had been partly in reaction to US arms sales to Taiwan, on October 20. Russia and China have expressed their opposition to future sanctions against the Iranian regime. The US has levied sanctions against Iran's Export Development Bank in a further effort to punish those institutions it believes are involved in the country's nuclear weapons program.

Western intelligence experts, and a former U.N. nuclear expert, have confirmed that Iran's nuclear facilities are so deep underground that it would be difficult for Israel to destroy them with an airstrike. However, US and other western experts have highlighted that Israel is not likely to abandon its "first shoot" policy, and could attempt to draw the US into 'finishing the job'. The Iranian Minister of Defense stated on Tuesday that his country is prepared to give a "crushing response" to any threats made by Iran's enemies. The country has recently been strengthening its military resources in the Gulf, with the opening of a naval base at the Strait of Hormuz last week as part of its new defense strategy. Approximately forty percent of the world's oil travels through the Strait.

On October 18, Iran cited what it termed Western "intolerance" for independent voices as the primary reason for its failure to obtain a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council. The Council maintains ten rotating two-year seats in addition to the permanent five. Japan surpassed Iran by a margin of 158-32 to secure its bid for an Asian seat. Reacting to Iran's lost bid, the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, attacked the structure of the Council: "In practice a few special countries make decisions there and impose ideas."

Later in October, Iran rejected plans offered by the American-Iranian Council (AIC), an American-based NGO, to set up a local office in Iran. The AIC, as noted in its , seeks to establish a sustainable dialogue and a more thorough understanding of U.S.-Iranian relations. The NGO recently received approval from the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control for operations in Iran. The Iranian Interior Ministry, which has to authorize the operation of foreign agencies in Iran, has vowed not to approve any such AIC mission. Citing historical precedent, Iranian spokespeople, including Interior minister Ali Kordan, have noted America's purported use of intellectuals and other dissidents as a means of undermining the Islamic Republic from within. The AIC's attempt to open an office in Iran comes amid wider discussions in the Bush Administration on the subject of opening an Interests Section in Iran as a prelude to more significant diplomatic relations. Iran has stated its willingness to consider any such diplomatic overtures.

The former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, has remained silent regarding his intention to run for election in June 2009. He is regarded as one of only a handful of political figures capable of competing with the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The former Irish President, Mary Robinson, lauded Khatami's candidature last week, noting that his election would allow for great progress to be made in the Middle East.

In recent weeks, Iran's nuclear program has become the central focus in the foreign policy debate between the two American presidential candidates. Senator Barack Obama (Democrat-Illinois), adopting a more diplomatic stance in the affair, has stated that he would offer a choice for Iran between cooperation and increased pressure on the international front. Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona) has refuted such a move by stating that it would only serve to strengthen the regime in Tehran, adding that the suspension of uranium activities must remain a precondition for any possible talks.

 

Stories and Links

Iran Leader Signals not time for thaw in US ties, Reuters, October 29, 2008
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/
idUSTRE49S5B220081029?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews

Iran says snubbed by six powers on nuclear offer , Reuters, October 28, 2008
http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/5106456/iran-says-snubbed-by-six-powers-on-nuclear-offer/

Iran sets up naval base near the Gulf, AFP via the Middle East Times, October 28, 2008
http://www.metimes.com/Politics/2008/10/28/iran_sets_up_new_naval_base_near_the_gulf/afp/

Iran: a rising star that's now too powerful to ignore, Elaine Sciolino, October 27, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/28/books/28Sciolino.html

Iran nukes: too deep to hit, Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, October 25, 2008
http://www.newsweek.com/id/165667

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Comments, editorials and analysis

Sleepless in Tehran, Thomas Friedman, International Herald Tribune, October 29, 2008
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/10/29/opinion/edfriedman.php

A bright shining lie: Dennis Ross and the run-up to an attack on Iran, Ira Glunts, Iran Review, October 26, 2008
http://www.iranreview.org/content/view/2707/41/

Iraq, SOFA and Mideast godfathers, Arah Parsa, Iran Review, October 25, 2008
http://www.iranreview.org/content/view/2682/36/

We should talk to our enemies, Nicholas Burns, Newsweek, October 25, 2008
http://www.newsweek.com/id/165650

Iran is Job One, Roger Cohen, The New York Times op-ed, October 22, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/23/opinion/23Cohen.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

Iran's nuclear dilemma - understanding the Iranian threat: the other side of the coin , Sam Shoamanesh, Harvard International Review, October 22, 2008
http://www.harvardir.org/articles/1783/

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